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McIlroy, Donald share lead after Round 3 in Dubai

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McIlroy, Donald share lead after Round 3 in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Rory McIlroy sank a short birdie putt on the 18th hole Saturday to remain tied with Luke Donald as the world's two top-ranked golfers pulled three shots clear of a star-studded field after the third round of the Dubai World Championship.

The top-ranked McIlroy, who has already wrapped up the European and PGA Tour money titles, struggled early when he bogeyed the first hole and missed several makeable birdie putts. But he improved on the back nine, sinking a 30-foot eagle putt on 14 to go with three birdies for a 6-under 66.

Donald also had a 66 and is tied with McIlory with a 17-under total of 199.

``I've done a majority of my scoring this week on the back nine and that's the way it went today,'' McIlroy said. ``Took me a few holes to adjust. But once I got comfortable, I started to hit some good shots and give myself opportunities for birdies.''

Donald had his third consecutive bogey-free round and has now gone 100 holes at the Dubai tournament without one. If he wins Sunday without carding a bogey, he will match the feat of Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, who won the 1995 Scandinavian Masters without dropping a shot.

``I was, again, just trying to play solid golf, minimize mistakes,'' said Donald, who won in Japan last week to overtake Tiger Woods for the No. 2 spot in the rankings. ``I guess it's a testament to how I play the game. I kind of keep the ball in front of me and, when I get in trouble, I've got a good short game to bail myself out.''

South Africans Louis Oosthuizen (68) and Charl Schwartzel (67) are three shots back, while compatriot Branden Grace and Joostis Luiten of France are a further two shots behind. Seven others are six shots off the pace, including Scotsman Marc Warren, who started the day tied with McIlroy and Donald but had three bogeys on his first 12 holes to fall out of contention.

The round of the day, however, went to Jeev Milkha Singh. Still recovering from a hand injury and worried about his mother, who was hospitalized after a fall, the Indian golfer shot a 64 to match the course record and move into a tie for 25th. He strung together three consecutive birdies on the front nine and four straight after the turn in a round that included a total of nine birdies to go with a lone bogey on the 10th.

``I dedicate this round to my mother,'' Singh said. ``She was in the ICU yesterday. I learned about it just before I teed off.''

Though McIlroy and Donald didn't play together, it seemed the world's top golfers were having a duel of sorts all day.

Donald struck first, sinking two birdie putts on the first three holes, while McIlroy hit his opening drive into a bunker and settled for a bogey. McIlroy pulled a shot back with a birdie on No. 3 and then sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole before Donald sank birdies on 7 and 9 to extend his lead.

But just when it seemed Donald might pull away, McIlroy made consecutive birdies on the 11th and 12th. With Donald extending his lead by two with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 14, McIlroy needed something special to keep pace.

On the par-5 14th, McIlroy hit what he called a ``great drive'' followed by a 4-iron that landed in the middle of the green. He curled the 30-foot putt to draw even with Donald.

``I was just trying to hit it on the green somewhere and give myself at least a chance for eagle and probably a two-putt birdie,'' McIlroy said. ``But I got up there and it was 25, 30 feet away and I guess it was a downhill putt that I was just trying to get close. It was on a good line and it was a good speed and it was a bonus that it went in. Obviously, it got me tied, which was nice.''

Donald and McIlroy were not alone at the top all day. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, made a run midway through his round with four birdies over five holes before cooling off and three-putting for par on the 18th.

Oosthuizen's playing partner, 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel, also started strong with two birdies on the first three holes and had the shot of the day when his second on the par-5 7th almost went in. But then he fell back with a bogey on 8 and 10 and missed a birdie putt on 18.

``Nearly albatross there, wasn't it?'' Schwartzel said. ``If there was ever going to be a flag that you've got a good chance to eagle, it was going to be the 7th today. Great tee shot, hit a 4-iron in there and caught that bowl and came funneling down. From where I could see it, it must have been really close to going in.''

Donald and McIlroy both birdied the 18th to set up a season-ending duel between No. 1 and No. 2 - something not seen since last year when Donald won the BMW PGA Championship in a playoff with Lee Westwood to replace him at the top.

Though the Northern Irishman has the top ranking locked up, a victory on Sunday would affirm his claim as the world's best golfer heading into 2013.

``It's very important no matter what happens tomorrow,'' McIlroy said. ``I guess I'm No. 1 going into next year. But it will be nice to put an exclamation mark on, if you want.''

For Donald, a victory would serve as a revenge of sorts. McIlroy took the No. 1 ranking from him earlier this year and then went out and matched the Englishman's feat of winning both tour money titles in 2011. The two haven't played in a final round together since 2007 and that was when Donald was ranked 17th and McIlroy 233rd.

``In terms of my own confidence, it would be a great way to finish off the year,'' Donald said. ``Any time you're playing against the best player in the world, if you can go head-to-head and come out on top, yeah you're going to come away feeling good about things.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.